Work is a labor of what we do, but we may not always care for it. But a labor of love is work we do either because we love doing it, or we do it for someone we love. Such was Jacob’s incessant love for Rachel. Such is the relentless love of Jesus for His bride. Both Jacob and Jesus look(ed) in faith to the union with the “apple of his eye,” the bride.
Jacob the Lover (Gen. 29:1–30). Jacob meets Rachel and it was love at first sight. They meet by a well and he rolls away a huge stone from its entrance so she can water her father Laban’s sheep. Next, Laban and Jacob meet and decide that he should work for his uncle Laban. Jacob asks to marry Rachel in exchange for seven years of work, to which Laban agrees. However, on the eve of the wedding, Laban secretly substitutes Leah for Rachel. Although Laban forces Jacob to work another seven years, Jacob’s great love for Rachel motivated his labor of love. Jacob gave his labor for the love of his life.
The Family Man (Gen. 29:28–30:24; 35:16–18, 23–26). Jacob married four women. Leah was Jacob’s first wife, followed by Rachel his second wife. Next was Rachel’s servant Bilhah, and finally Leah’s servant Zilpah. From these four women Jacob fathered twelve sons and one daughter. What a train of human cargo headed for disaster! However, God worked in all their hearts and minds even under those circumstances.
The Employee (Gen. 30:25–31:55). The specification: Jacob agreed to continue working for Laban with certain conditions. Jacob asked that he be allowed to keep all the speckled and spotted animals from the flock. The result was that Jacob became a very wealthy man!
In time Jacob finally decided to leave Laban. There were several reasons for the separation: (1) Laban’s resentment. (2) Laban’s sons turned his heart against Jacob because of their envy. (3) The Lord told Jacob to “Return to the land of your father and grandfather.” Both Rachel and Leah encouraged him to follow God’s revelation to leave. (4) Jacob felt that Laban deceived him by changing his wages on ten occasions (see 31:7, 41).
When Laban learned that Jacob and his entire camp left without informing him, in addition to stealing the family gods, he became frustrated and angry. During his ride to overtake Jacob, Laban was warned by God not to harm him. Still there was confrontation. Laban asked, “Why did you slip away secretly? ... Why have you stolen my household gods?”
Jacob simply replied that Laban’s dishonesty caused him to leave. Jacob told him frankly that he left secretly because of fear that Laban would take his daughters away from him. Jacob then insisted that he did not steal Laban’s idols. Then both men agreed to an uneasy truce, building a pile of stones to serve as a visible reminder.
With the above in mind, let’s consider Minneapolis and Jesus as Lover, Family Man, and Employee. [The 1888 General Conference Session was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.]
Jesus The Lover. As with Jacob who arrived penniless at his kinfolk’s place, so it was with Jesus when He arrived on earth. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor” (2 Cor. 8:9). The difference is that Jacob fled to Laban’s country to escape the consequences of his and his mother’s deception, whereas Jesus came to earth voluntarily because man had been deceived and could not escape the consequences of deception and sin.
Through the marriage institution we learn of the mystery of the marriage of Jesus with His Church (Eph. 5:32). He “loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (5:25). Christ’s great love for His “bride-to-be” was the pure motivation for His labor of redemptive love.
Rachel responded positively to Jacob. Christ’s bride has not, as yet. His bride is more like Laban than Rachel. So Jesus is pictured as standing at, and ever knocking on, the door of His rightful home (Rev. 3:20). He who was rich comes to the dwelling of the poor, who think they are rich (3:17), and discloses His love. Jesus does not withdraw from this woman who repels Him. Nor is He disgusted at her insolent attitude. Pursuing her, He remains standing at her door, knocking for entrance, that He may reveal to her true love. Brokenhearted and sorrowing, He bears long with her. Jesus gave and still gives His life for the love of His life. What labor of love is His!
His constant knocking is not an exercise in futility. It is not a tardy attempt to gain entry. This is the pounding “faith of Jesus” in the Loud Cry of the Third Angel. One day the door will be readily opened.
The Family Man. Most certainly Jacob was unequally yoked in his marriages. He suffered greatly because of this. Jesus, in His labor of love, voluntarily became unequally yoked—the Sinless One with sinful humanity. He placed Himself at a great disadvantage and suffered agony because of it. A portion of His disadvantage was this: He who is all powerful and could have called upon that power, laid it aside and lived by faith alone in human nature. The humanity He took in the incarnation was just like that of His mother Mary—sinful and fallen. As the family Man, and Hosea-like, Jesus grieved over the waywardness and contentions within His fallen family.
The Employee. Jesus, Owner of the universe, became poor and in His poverty became Servant of all. Through love He served. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). His labor of love for the human race, especially for His bride-to-be, involved the giving of His life throughout His lifetime on earth and then reaching the highest point—culminating on the cross. The cross is the supreme symbol of Christ’s labor of love in giving his life for the love of His life—His Church, especially His Remnant. The message of Minneapolis (1888) was the beginning of the end-time revelation of Christ’s labor of love in His office as Lover, Family Man, and Employee. This message of His love will beget love in the hearts of those who accept it.
Summary and Conclusion
Christ’s labor of love is summed up in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: Jesus “suffers long and is kind;” He “does not envy;” He “does not parade” Himself; He “is not puffed up.” Jesus “does not behave rudely, does not seek” His own; “is not provoked, thinks no evil.” Jesus “never fails.”
—Gerald L. Finneman
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